Master Mask Maker Hem Chandra Goswami Named for Padma Shri
His father Rudrakanta Deva Goswami trained him in the art of mask making from an early age.
GUWAHATI: Government of India had named a total of 109 awardees for the prestigious Padma Awards in the country. Out of them, three have been chosen from the state of Assam and Hem Chandra Goswami is one on the list for Padma Shri.
Hem Chandra Goswami is no new name for anyone who is acquainted with the art and cultural history of Assam. He is the person instrumental in reviving as well as showcasing the "Mukha" traditions of the state to the entire world. Mukhas are traditional masks depicting a range of characters including humans, animals, birds, gods and demons and form an essential part of the traditional theatrical presentation of Bhaonas.
Mukhas are made with a variety of natural ingredients including clay, hair, straw, etc before decorating with colours and other materials to depict the characters. Hem Chandra Goswami has been working towards continuing the tradition that has been lost from all other Satras while teaching it to students and enthusiasts as well. He is a resident of the Majuli district of Assam.
A large number of enthusiasts, both from across India as well as foreign countries come to visit Samuguri Satra to not only learn the art of Bhaona but also the process of the creation of the beautiful masks. Students trained under him have performed in multiple events of regional, national and global importance.
He started his training in the art created by the great Srimata Shankardev at the early age of 10. His father Rudrakanta Deva Goswami trained him in the art of mask making from an early age. And as he grew up, his dedication and practice led to his mastery of the topic.
His knowledge of the subject and passion to keep the age-old tradition alive has won him many awards in the state as well as the country including the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.
The Sri Sri Samaguri Satra is one of the monasteries of the sect created by Srimanta Shankardev. It was established in the second half of the seventeenth century by the grandson of the great saint. Unlike most of the other Satras in the state, this Satra allows the head to get married and carry on with his studies regarding the art forms created by Srimanta Shankardev. And as time went by, generation after generation of experts passed on the knowledge of traditional mask-making. And that is one of the reasons why this particular Satra and its leaders still carry the expertise of the art which has been forgotten by many others.